When Did U.S. Presidents Start Using Speechwriters?
When did U.S. presidents start outsourcing the writing of their speeches?
According to Robert Schlesinger, author of Presidents and Their Speechwriters, “Judson Welliver, 'literary clerk' during the Harding administration, from 1921 to 1923, is generally considered the first presidential speechwriter in the modern sense—someone whose job description includes helping to compose speeches.”
And then FDR had a number of people helping him.
That said, some of it started right from the beginning, to some extent. Not outsourcing, per se—at least not consistently—but certainly collaboration.
The first draft of George Washington’s famous farewell address was prepared with the assistance of James Madison, five years before he ultimately delivered it. Years later, Alexander Hamilton put in a lot of work helping Washington revise it before it reached its final form.
James Monroe delivered his famous doctrine in a State of the Union Address, but it was primarily written by his Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams.
“When James K. Polk asked Congress for a declaration of war against Mexico in 1846, his words were written by Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft, the most distinguished American historian of the time," according to Profiles of U.S. Presidents. "Years later Bancroft was again the presidential amanuensis, this time of Andrew Johnson.”
According to the same source, Woodrow Wilson was the last president to write his own speeches.
After Wilson came Harding, who was the first president with a dedicated speechwriter (though I’m not sure if his immediate successors, Coolidge and Hoover, had one as well). Once they were through it becomes a little clearer, as FDR is known to have used a number of ghost writers for his speeches.
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